Love and appreciate Mr. Oats

Boldness comes from confidence and confidence comes from success.

Quote by Jack LeGeoff, a very famous showjumper. And I have to say…He’s right. I was musing on this verbally with my trainer last night. I have had long-standing anxiety/fear issues with jumping (even though I love it!!) and it’s taken me a long, long time to let my body and brain be okay with what I’m doing- jumping! Years and years at 2′ basically.

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Screengrab my trainer took- Oats cantering 2’9” like a little pro! Can you believe we TROTTED this in our warm-up? Me either! 

In some aspects I look back and am like, man why did it take that long? But that’s basically the same emotion as finishing a solid personal-best style race and muttering, ‘Why couldn’t I have gone just a little bit faster?’ It doesn’t serve anyone.

What does serve is being appreciative and happy with the progress you/I have made. Taking it jump by jump, lesson by lesson, and day by day. I don’t really take it for granted (much…It’s still a human instinct apparently).

Anyways, my trainer announced she was going to have me do something yesterday that she knew I’d really hate- trot jumps. Ughhh!! Even better, we were going to play the ‘how high can you go’ with a trot jump?! I was like, oh this is going to be good… But I played along! Part of my anxiety in the past wouldn’t let me just try things, and I’m ready to try now.

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Another, less fabulous screengrab- a fail on my part, a too-close distance for Oats over the oxer. We had to re-ride this (and it went fantastic!) 

So we trotted in! We started with a canter x-rail, and then moved it to a very small (under 2ft) vertical for the trot in. We did a few trot in, and up it went! And then up it went again and we went SPLAT for one jump- I kind of pushed and then pulled and couldn’t make up my mind to leave him alone to it, haha. And then to 2’6”! Wha? I got with the rhythm a bit better, and figured things out, and we called it quits…Until I said go to 2’9”- I know we can do it. And the first time, I got nervous and did the ‘Go-no wait, no canter, now go!’ And I did confuse the poor pony but he bobbled up to it and flew over! We had to do it again, and this time I TROTTED and didn’t get all nervous and grabby. 🙂 YAY Oats!

It felt like a ‘Oats/Jesus take the wheel!’ moment but it was excellent for the both of us. For me, to understand that jumping bigger fences and ‘waiting’ not rushing or driving at them is a-ok and totally fine. For Oats, he was pushing off his hind end more equally. Win-win! And a bonus- when we went to canter it for our second course, it felt pretty darn easy.

That’s not to say our courses were foot-perfect (hahah no) we got in way too close on our second round to the rocks and to the oxer, so we had to ride them again. But you know what? I just love and appreciate the ‘try’ my pony exhibited in the whole ride, his willingness, and the mind/mental freedom I had to give these new and scary things a go.

Moment by moment, I just really am feeling this little guy more and more now.

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Love, appreciate, joy,

I’m just feeling really good about my pony these days. Had a jump lesson last night that sure wasn’t ”perfect” but man, it made me just feel so glad to have him, my Oats, with me. I rode on Monday and wanted to cry I was so cold, it was horrible. Oats was perfect, but I could tell that the chill was tough on him too.

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I heard he was a total gentleman for his rider on Tuesday (they have been having some great rides, yes!!) and hearing that just makes my heart sing. You know when you have a horse that other people like?  And more importantly, like riding? It’s a good feeling! So going into my Thursday jump lesson I had warm fuzzies in my heart. 🙂

We warmed up a tad lackluster- he was coughing a bit, and inattentive. I was like, c’mon get with the program! And bit by bit, we did. We didn’t work on anything very complicated, but there was one particular turn that made me feel a bit nervous- come around in a circle, jump the rock jump and cut left immediately (2-3? strides) to an oxer on the long side.

Now, this oxer was the friendliest oxer you could possible want. A x-rail in front of a vertical, which really draws in horses and makes it easier to jump. It was also the highest fence on the course! Two things in one! Hahahh.

The first time we did the cut away jump to the oxer, it went perfectly! The second time…I didn’t lock on to the second jump, landed and got pulled wayyyy wide to the oxer. Whoops!!! Oats had basically veered way right, and it was a judgement call: go around (would be easy!!) or right the course in 1-stride and go jump! We jumped!! It was NOT pretty, given it was at this point a 2’9” oxer, but Oats was game and away we went!

Whee!!!! Man that was funny. But we dug deep and pulled it out, hahah.

He definitely goes better when I don’t forget what I’m doing/lock on to the correct jump, but he’s such a good and honest pony that it doesn’t really matter to him anyways! So game! I think I was having a bit of a hard time seeing last night, as my eyes were watering constantly throughout the course due to the chill. (And yesterday was the warmest it’s been all week, yiiiikes!).

Anyways, things that I always have to work on: Release with my arms instead of chicken wings… Go with the horse, instead of getting caught in the back seat! This happened a few times last night, my body wasn’t clicking with it for some reason. Land on my knee/upper thigh. Hips back, consider a sitting seat to the fences to achieve this. Look where the fences are!! And stay there! I had a lot of trouble with this last night too- I’m going to partially blame the cold/tears in my eyes.

But overall, we jumped the highest we’ve jumped a single fence and it was the one on course that we jumped a few times, and even after a tricky attempt, and it was not a problem. Good to know, and I felt so appreciative and happy with my pony. Go Oats!

I don’t make resolutions, because I live my life in a way that can only be described as ‘resolute’

So there!

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I have fun ideas, maybe some goals or wishes? But overall I just want to keep doing what I’m doing, and live a nice life with my loved ones, critters, horse, athletic ability and friends.

As I write this, I’m back to the regular grind and staring down a loooong calendar of no more holidays until a very late Easter. Greeeat… Did lots of riding, had a Saturday jump lesson with old Oats where it was absolutely monsoon raining and he was Not. Having. It. that day. He was a cranky ass pants that’s for sure! Hahahah all the horses were kind of nuts.

I did a fair amount of running on the weekend too and made sure to get out on the trails near the stables, because I usually see bunnies there (obviously feral ones, not wild) and they did not disappoint! I saw a little black bunny, and sometimes I see some interesting coat patterned ones. I also saw two swans! It was a lovely day to run, unlike the horrible monsoon the day previous (where I also ran, and spend the entire run regretting every life choice that made me do that). Ugh!

New Years Eve saw us at a friend’s party downtown, and we had a lovely time. It was nice to reconnect with a friend who was back in town after a few years away. He’s starting a new and exciting chapter in his life, so my fingers are crossed that he’s successful and has a lot of fun! Selfishly I am glad he’s back because he’s a ton of fun and I wanted to have my running buddy back 🙂

I clearly can’t do late nights though. Yowza, the entire Jan. 1 was a total write-off for us. I was exhausted, dragging my ass around. We *just* made it to the barn, where I rode (wobbly and poorly) and then we made it home and I crawled back into bed. And then we went to bed at 9pm. Jesus.

I don’t feel fantastic today either, sore throat. Waves fist- why, late nights? Why? This feels like unusual punishment for one night of fun?!! Wha.

You’ll never get to heaven: Jump lesson recap!

Had my regular jump lesson last night, and not gonna lie, I was dragging ass all day. Turns out I’m probably getting sick, dammit! Had crushing waves of exhaustion in the afternoon and just felt super blahh. I wasn’t really looking forward to my lesson, which bummed me out because I was looking forward to riding Oats on a regular schedule so badly!

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Oats says oxers are no biggie! Wish it was summer…

But, I sucked it up and went anyways. And I am so glad that I did. Oats, while not perfect, was a great ‘trier’ and showed me that we can indeed be competent jumpers together even after he has a week off from riding and lessons. Yes!!! And with an audience too! We worked over a circle jump exercise with a x-rail and Oats wasn’t really respecting it…He was making big ‘bids’ at it, to my great annoyance. My legs felt weak and tired, so I was relying more strongly on my heel to anchor, rather than my thigh. Whoops!

We worked on more of a half-halt after kind of a disastrous long spot to a small vertical that almost ended up with Oats’ nose in the dirt. Yikes! And I asked for it! He jumped really flat, and almost bailed. Sheesh.

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Jumping a fan jump in the summer- so fun! We literally never got the right spot to it, haha. 

So, I smartened up and rode a better, more ‘bouncy’ canter to the fences rather than asking him for a dumb flat long spot. We then moved to a small course that ended up being quite ‘loopy’ with lots of changing directions and…dun dun dun…OXERS! All the jumps (3) out of 5 were oxers. Gulp?! We started small and then rode the course at 2’6”.

But you know what? We dug deep and just …did it! I felt slightly anxious but more tired, and so I was just ok with riding and not thinking that much, hahah. Oats did get fairly surprised by one jump that went up a bigger oxer, and was like, whaa??? But he figured it out and was a good boy! We did get some awkward spots, nobody’s perfect and I was getting tired, as was Oats. However there were no big crash-and-burns, we didn’t give up, and I just felt so glad with how my pony was, and grateful to have him on my side.

I missed him soooo much, and I just love riding him, being around him. I’m so lucky with my Oats!

Know Better Learn Faster: Jump Lesson!

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All my swag from the past weekend! 

I was both looking forward to and feeling anxious about my jump lesson on Thursday. I was really happy with how the horse show went, (coachless! but with some hand-holding) and wondering how I could keep the good vibes rolling!

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Remember this from a few weeks ago? Make it almost completely dark out..and then do it. Coop set in the middle of the arena, rail at same height!

Sometimes this means I shut down, because I would rather not mess up a good thing than try and have it kind of blow up in my face. Not a good impulse and not one I am proud of. (see- why I can never play darts again…).

BUT I am learning – year by year- that I can try, and fail, and still have a lot of fun and learn tons. It’s not a one-and-done thing! I can keep going! 🙂 We were back in the outdoor to grasp the last bit of remaining daylight, and it was the last semi-private I will have (gonna miss those!).

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Oxer on diagonal, so festive! (Photo by Nicole).

We worked over a small x-rail, and then the x-rail to a small vertical both working off the diagonal. Oats was…unenthusiastic. I felt like the jumps needed to be higher to get his focus!!  Mine too maybe? He blahhhhed over the jumps. I was kind of annoyed, but like, with some fire in my belly.

Let’s DO THIS

Coursetime: Not complicated, but would require me to sit up (after a stop going into the one outside line, hahahah I decided I would jump first and Oats was like yeah, no.). And key? LEG LEG LEG even on the slow fade 3-strides to the jump. Not just sitting there like a stuffed dummy.

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This ‘Halloween’ line ended up being an oxer set further back. So fun! (Photo by Nicole).

And how did the course ride? Pretty well! The bending line gave me some trouble both times, but overall quite nicely. I got some good distances, not too much ‘stop and crawl’ over the fences, remembered to use my legs in the last 3 strides even! There were a lot of oxers, traditionally something that wigs me out, but I felt pretty good last night.

Course was: vertical on diagonal, oxer on diagonal, ride the outside line in 7, back to the first vertical on the diagonal bending line to 1st fence in outside line, oxer on second outside line to oxer on diagonal (rode well!), ride along and then turn right across the arena to jump the coop, turn left and ride the outside line of 2X oxers (7 the first time, 6 the second. Oats was on FIRE!).

We had 1 more stop the second time we rode the course, honestly it felt like Oats didn’t see the second rail set up in the oxer until the last minute- we bumped the fences up 1 hole and added an oxer. It was really dark out by this point. Re-approached and he was a-ok. In fact, the was golden.

What a great, kickass ride!

 

In trouble for good: Horse show recap!

It’s been a funny time- I have shown more dressage this past year than in my entire life, and you know what? I have been feeling VERY competent in it (mostly, ha). So when I had my first jumping show in a year, I kind of expected it to go, well? We attended the Cedar Vista Schooling Series jumper show, in the 2’3” match the clock jumper division.

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From a million years ago (2014 actually!). At the Appy Show series. Photo courtesy of Anne-Marie Sorvin.

Well, it went, that’s for sure. But it wasn’t the consistent, competent and thoughtfully-ridden show of my dressage shows past. I still felt very nervous and anxious, and I found it quite difficult to ‘connect’ in with my dear horse. That led to me ‘checking out’ for the first, oh, three jumps on course until we got to jump 4, and I was able to connect back and actually RIDE my pony. That led to some truly sloppy rails. SIGH! And some very backed-off fences.

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At the Appy Show series. Photo courtesy of Anne-Marie Sorvin.

Would I have preferred to click in for jump 1? YES! But was I at least glad I noticed I wasn’t checked in, and was able to do it for jump 4? Also YES! So, win some, lose some.

I’m going through a process here, and it is not as easy as I thought it would be.

Funny I don’t have this in dressage- jumping just has some ‘extra’ in it that leads to my brain hamsters falling off their wheels! I will have to work hard to manage it. I have some ideas to practice tomorrow in my jump lesson, so I am glad that I have a plan that I trust, to work towards.

Also, I had a really fantastic ride in the field the day before the show (Saturday) when I had my husband come and take a video of a small course of 9 fences I strung together. It was just so awesome, flowing, smooth, happy and positive. I wish all my rides could feel that nice! 🙂

Never Have Enough

Had an equine counseling session, and we did it in the field! I love riding in the field and it’s been so warm lately, ahhhhh my favourite.

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A few years ago- riding in the field is my favourite! 

Some things we identified- using coping mechanisms like teeth clenching, hands in fists, and biting my tongue are older coping mechanisms (numbing actions) that became a part of me- without me really noticing or knowing. I still use these when I am managing stress, and they have a part to play- to a point. Now, knowing I use these coping mechanisms is important and also the fact that I have them isn’t bad or anything- I just have to recognize that I am using them, and be ok with it!

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Last year- wheee! 

It was a very interesting session, and I know that I will probably have a few more while I manage some anxiety that bubbles up. It’s funny, because things are actually really good right now- which is apparently the best time to manage these little ‘blips’ that come up on the surface.

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And in the meantime? Just be ok with it, and understand that it’s a process to work though. Ah, life! Like horses, like anything- something that requires effort, haha.